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Google

Google Wants To Test Driverless Cars In a Simulation 118

Posted by timothy
from the do-you-want-to-be-a-virtual-pedestrian? dept.
An anonymous reader writes Google has been testing its autonomous vehicles on U.S. roads for a while now. In fact, they're required to, by law. "California's regulations stipulate autonomous vehicles must be tested under "controlled conditions" that mimic real-world driving as closely as possible. Usually, that has meant a private test track or temporarily closed public road." It's easy enough to test a few prototypes, but whenever autonomous cars start being produced by manufacturers, it'll become a lot more complicated. Now, Google is lobbying to change that law to allow testing via computer simulation. Safety director Ron Medford said, "Computer simulations are actually more valuable, as they allow manufacturers to test their software under far more conditions and stresses than could possibly be achieved on a test track." Google spokeswoman Katelin Jabbari said, "In a few hours, we can test thousands upon thousands of scenarios which in terms of driving all over again might take decades." Shee adds that simulator data can also easily provide information on how human behavior creeps into driving. "It's not just about the physics of avoiding a crash. It's also about the emotional expectation of passengers and other drivers." For example, when one of Google's computer-controlled cars is cut off, the software brakes harder than it needs to, because this makes the passengers feel safer. Critics say relying heavily on simulation data is flawed because it doesn't take into account how other cars react to the computer's driving.
Transportation

It's Easy To Hack Traffic Lights 130

Posted by Soulskill
from the looking-forward-to-the-mobile-app dept.
An anonymous reader notes coverage of research from the University of Michigan into the ease with which attackers can hack traffic lights. From the article: As is typical in large urban areas, the traffic lights in the subject city are networked in a tree-type topology, allowing them to pass information to and receive instruction from a central management point. The network is IP-based, with all the nodes (intersections and management computers) on a single subnet. In order to save on installation costs and increase flexibility, the traffic light system uses wireless radios rather than dedicated physical networking links for its communication infrastructure—and that’s the hole the research team exploited. ... The 5.8GHz network has no password and uses no encryption; with a proper radio in hand, joining is trivial. ... The research team quickly discovered that the debug port was open on the live controllers and could directly "read and write arbitrary memory locations, kill tasks, and even reboot the device (PDF)." Debug access to the system also let the researchers look at how the controller communicates to its attached devices—the traffic lights and intersection cameras. They quickly discovered that the control system’s communication was totally non-obfuscated and easy to understand—and easy to subvert.
Transportation

How Does Tesla Build a Supercharger Charging Site? 174

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
cartechboy writes Tesla's Superchargers are the talk of the electric car community. These charging stations can take a Model S battery pack from nearly empty to about 150 miles of range in around 30 minutes. That's crazy fast, and it's nothing short of impressive. But what does it take to actually build a Tesla Supercharger site? Apparently a lot of digging. A massive trench is created to run high-capacity electric cables before the charging stations themselves are even installed. A diagram and photos of the Electric Conduit Construction build out have surfaced on the Internet. The conduits connect the charging stations to a power distribution center, which in turn is connected to a transformer that provides the power for charging cars. It took 11 days to install the six charging stalls in Goodland, Kansas. If you thought it was a quick process to build a Supercharger station, you were clearly wrong.
The Almighty Buck

National Science Foundation Awards $20 Million For Cloud Computing Experiments 25

Posted by samzenpus
from the paying-the-way-to-the-future dept.
aarondubrow writes The National Science Foundation today announced two $10 million projects to create cloud computing testbeds — to be called "Chameleon" and "CloudLab" — that will enable the academic research community to experiment with novel cloud architectures and pursue new, architecturally-enabled applications of cloud computing. While most of the original concepts for cloud computing came from the academic research community, as clouds grew in popularity, industry drove much of the design of their architecture. Today's awards complement industry's efforts and enable academic researchers to advance cloud computing architectures that can support a new generation of innovative applications, including real-time and safety-critical applications like those used in medical devices, power grids, and transportation systems.
Power

How Argonne National Lab Will Make Electric Cars Cheaper 142

Posted by samzenpus
from the cheap-charge dept.
ashshy writes Argonne National Lab is leading the charge on next-generation battery research. In an interview with The Motley Fool, Argonne spokesman Jeff Chamberlain explains how new lithium ion chemistries will drive down the cost of electric cars over the next few years. "The advent of lithium ion has truly enabled transportation uses," Chamberlain said. "Because if you remember your freshman chemistry, you think of the periodic table -- lithium is in the upper left-hand corner of the periodic table. Only hydrogen and helium are lighter on an atomic basis."
Transportation

Helsinki Aims To Obviate Private Cars 274

Posted by Soulskill
from the start-what-you-finnish dept.
New submitter NBSCALIDBA writes: Eeva Haaramo reports on Helsinki's ambitious plan to transform city transportation. From on-demand buses to city bikes to Kutsuplus mini-transport vans, the Finnish capital is trying to change the whole concept of getting around in a city. "Under the plan, all these services will be accessed through a single online platform. People will be able to buy their transport in service packages that work like mobile phone tariffs: either as a complete monthly deal or pay as you go options based on individual usage. Any number of companies can use the platform to offer transport packages, and if users find their travel needs change, they'll be able to switch packages or moved to a rival with a better deal."
Google

Google's Driverless Cars Capable of Exceeding Speed Limit 473

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-should-i-feel-when-a-driverless-car-tailgates-me? dept.
mrspoonsi sends a report about how Google's autonomous vehicles handle speed limits. It's easy to assume that driverless cars will simply be programmed never to exceed a posted speed limit, but Google has found that such behavior can actually be less safe than speeding a bit. Thus, they've allowed their cars to exceed the speed limit by up to 10 miles per hour. In July, the U.K. government announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads from January next year. In addition, ministers ordered a review of the U.K.'s road regulations to provide appropriate guidelines. This will cover the need for self-drive vehicles to comply with safety and traffic laws, and involve changes to the Highway Code, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales. Commenting on Google self-drive cars' ability to exceed the speed limit, a Department for Transport spokesman said: "There are no plans to change speed limits, which will still apply to driverless cars." In a separate development on Monday, the White House said it wanted all cars and light trucks to be equipped with technology that could prevent collisions.
Earth

Iceland's Seismic Activity: A Repeat Show for Atmospheric Ash? 69

Posted by timothy
from the orange-is-the-new-ash dept.
In 2010, ash spewed into the atmosphere by the volcano beneath Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull glacier grounded European air traffic for days (and, partially, for weeks). As reported by The Guardian, a series of similarly situated earthquakes may herald a similar ash-ejecting erruption, and the country has raised its volcano risk to its second-most-severe rating (orange). From the article: Iceland met office seismologist Martin Hensch said the risk of any disruptive ash cloud similar to the one in 2010 would depend on how high any ash would be thrown, how much there would be and how fine-grained it would be. Bardarbunga is Iceland's largest volcanic system, located under the ice cap of the Vatnajokull glacier in the southeast of Iceland. It is in a different range to Eyjafjallajokull. The met office said in a statement it measured the strongest earthquake in the region since 1996 early on Monday and it now had strong indications of ongoing magma movement. "As evidence of magma movement shallower than 10km implies increased potential of a volcanic eruption, the Bardarbunga aviation colour code has been changed to orange," it said. "Presently there are no signs of eruption, but it cannot be excluded that the current activity will result in an explosive subglacial eruption, leading to an outburst flood and ash emission." ... Hensch said the biggest risk in Iceland itself was from flood waves from any eruption under the glacier. He said the area of Iceland mainly at risk of flooding was mostly uninhabited but that roads in the area had been closed.
Crime

Feds: Red Light Camera Firm Paid For Chicago Official's Car, Condo 115

Posted by samzenpus
from the red-light-red-light dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The former CEO of Redflex, a major red light camera vendor, and John Bills, former Managing Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Transportation, have been indicted on federal corruption charges stemming from a contract with the City of Chicago. According to the indictment, a friend of Bills was hired as a contractor and paid $2 million. Much of that money was then kicked back to Bills, who also got a Mercedes and a condominium via Redflex employees. The defendants are facing 23 counts including: mail fraud, wire fraud, and bribery. Each fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years."
Transportation

Tesla Removes Mileage Limits On Drive Unit Warranty Program 174

Posted by timothy
from the 90-percent-of-the-cost-of-my-entire-car dept.
Ars Technica reports that Elon Musk today wrote that Tesla will remove mileage limits on its warranty policy for all Tesla Model S drive units. The warranty, which will still span eight years, won't have a cap on the number of owners for each vehicle. People who purchased Teslas before today were told that the warranty period for the drive unit expired after eight years or once the car logged over 125,000 miles. The revised warranty applies to new vehicles and Model S cars that are already on the road. The article mentions that quite a few Tesla owners have had to have their drive units replaced; out of warranty, that runs about $15,000. Musk's announcement acknowledges that the change may cost the company some money, but says he's "confident it will work out well in the long run."
Transportation

Berlin Bans Car Service Uber 341

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-here dept.
An anonymous reader is just one of many who have pointed out that things don't look good for Uber in Berlin. Berlin has banned car service Uber, which allows users to summon a ride on their smartphone, for not offering drivers and vehicles licensed to carry passengers, or full insurance cover, the German capital said. The ban takes immediate effect and Uber risks fines of up to 25,000 euros each time it violates the city's Public Transport Act, Berlin authorities said in a statement. Uber said on Thursday it would appeal against the decision, accusing Berlin of denying its people choice and mobility. "As a new entrant we are bringing much-needed competition to a market that hasn't changed in years. Competition is good for everyone and it raises the bar and ultimately it's the consumer who wins," said Fabien Nestmann, German General Manager at Uber. Undaunted by the setback in Berlin, Uber has launched uberTAXI in Hong Kong.
Sci-Fi

Where are the Flying Cars? (Video; Part Two of Two) 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the fly-me-to-the-moon dept.
Yesterday we ran Part One of this two-part video. This is part two. To recap yesterday's text introduction: Detroit recently hosted the North American Science Fiction Convention, drawing thousands of SF fans to see and hear a variety of talks on all sorts of topics. One of the biggest panels featured a discussion on perhaps the greatest technological disappointment of the past fifty years: Where are our d@%& flying cars? Panelists included author and database consultant Jonathan Stars, expert in Aeronautical Management and 20-year veteran of the Air Force Douglas Johnson, author and founder of the Artemis Project Ian Randal Strock, novelist Cindy A. Matthews, Fermilab physicist Bill Higgins, general manager of a nanotechnology company Dr. Charles Dezelah, and astrobiology expert Dr. Nicolle Zellner. As it turns out, the reality of situation is far less enticing than the dream -- but new technologies offer a glimmer of hope. (Alternate Video Link)
Transportation

California May Waive Environmental Rules For Tesla 327

Posted by Soulskill
from the mother-earth-plays-second-fiddle-to-mother-economy dept.
cartechboy writes: We all know Tesla is working on its Gigafactory, and it has yet to announce officially where it will be. But the automaker did announce a shortlist of possible locations, and California wasn't on it. The state has quickly been trying to lure Tesla to get back into contention. Now the state may waive environmental rules which would normally make construction of such a large manufacturing facility more difficult. Apparently, Governor Jerry Brown's office is currently negotiating an incentive package for Tesla that would waive certain parts of the nearly half-century-old California Environmental Quality Act. Not only that, but state officials are reportedly considering letting Tesla begin construction and perform damage mitigation later, along with limiting lawsuits that could slow down the project. Let's not forget some massive tax breaks, to the tune of $500 million. Is California stepping out of bounds here?
Transportation

Where are the Flying Cars? (Video; Part One of Two) 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the keeping-up-with-the-jetsons dept.
Detroit recently hosted the North American Science Fiction Convention, drawing thousands of SF fans to see and hear a variety of talks on all sorts of topics. One of the biggest panels featured a discussion on perhaps the greatest technological disappointment of the past fifty years: Where are our d@%& flying cars? Panelists included author and database consultant Jonathan Stars, expert in Aeronautical Management and 20-year veteran of the Air Force Douglas Johnson, author and founder of the Artemis Project Ian Randal Strock, novelist Cindy A. Matthews, Fermilab physicist Bill Higgins, general manager of a nanotechnology company Dr. Charles Dezelah, and astrobiology expert Dr. Nicolle Zellner. This video and the one you'll see tomorrow show their lively discussion about the economic, social, and political barriers to development and adoption of affordable flying cars. (Alternate Video Link)
Android

Android Motorcycle Helmet/HUD Gains Funding 126

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the 80s-future-realized dept.
DeviceGuru (1136715) writes Skully Systems has achieved Indiegogo funding for a high-tech Android 4.4 based motorcycle helmet with a head-up display (HUD), GPS navigation, and a 180-degree rearview camera. The Skully AR-1 helmet launched on Indiegogo on Aug. 10 and quickly blasted past its $250,000 flexible funding goal and has already surpassed $900,000 in funding. The helmet runs a heavily modified version of Android 4.4, with both screen size and safety in mind, according to Skully's Tow. 'You should not think of it as being Android as seen in a phone; it doesn't run the same skin,' wrote Tow on the Skully forum page. 'You instead should think of it as a variant of Linux, not Android per se. What counts is the device drivers, graphics rendering for our turn by turn directions and vehicle telemetry, etc. More nerdy things like communication over the I2C bus to the image processing module.' Helmets are available starting at $1,399, with shipments due in May 2015.
Businesses

The Fiercest Rivalry In Tech: Uber vs. Lyft 125

Posted by timothy
from the follow-that-car-driver dept.
onehitwonder (1118559) writes WSJ looks at the cantankerous rivalry between two popular ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, and the dirty tactics each employs to weaken its opponent. Lyft, for example, alleges that representatives from Uber frequently order short rides from Lyft just to slow down Lyft's service and to try to poach its drivers. WSJ points out that the rivalry is more than just a made-for-TV competition: "It's a battle for a key role in the future of urban transportation." Lyft certainly isn't Uber's only rival, though, even setting aside conventional taxis and car services, even those two names are big in U.S. cities: its clash with Gett has reportedly involved tricks at least as dirty. Another way to look at the rivalry, too, is that the biggest clash is not between Uber and any other particular company, but rather between the various ride-calling / ride-sharing services taken together against the existing, regulated taxi and car-service companies they threaten.
United States

DEA Paid Amtrak Employee To Pilfer Passenger Lists 127

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the have-to-break-the-law-to-protect-the-law dept.
Via Ars Technica comes news that an Amtrak employee was paid nearly $900,000 over the last ten years to give the DEA passenger lists outside of normal channels. Strangely enough, the DEA already had access to such information through official channels. From the article: The employee, described as a "secretary to a train and engine crew" in a summary obtained by the AP, was selling the customer data without Amtrak's approval. Amtrak and other transportation companies collect information from their customers including credit card numbers, travel itineraries, emergency contact info, passport numbers, and dates of birth. When booking tickets online in recent years, Amtrak has also collected phone numbers and e-mail addresses. ... Amtrak has long worked closely with the DEA to track drug trafficking activity on its train lines. The Albuquerque Journal reported in 2001 that "a computer with access to Amtrak's ticketing information sits on a desk in the [DEA]'s local office," wrote the ACLU.
Security

Hackers Demand Automakers Get Serious About Security 120

Posted by samzenpus
from the lock-it-down dept.
wiredmikey writes: In an open letter to Automotive CEOs, a group of security researchers has called on automobile industry executives to implement five security programs to improve car safety and build cyber-security safeguards inside the software systems powering various features in modern cars. As car automation systems become more sophisticated, they need to be locked down to prevent tampering or unauthorized access. The Five Star Automotive Cyber Safety Program outlined in the letter asked industry executives for safety by design, third-party collaboration, evidence capture, security updates, and segmentation and isolation. Vehicles are "computers on wheels," said Josh Corman, CTO of Sonatype and a co-founder of I am the Cavalry, the group who penned the letter (PDF). The group aims to bring security researchers together with representatives from non-security fields, such as home automation and consumer electronics, medical devices, transportation, and critical infrastructure, to improve security.
Medicine

Why Bhutan Might Get Drone Delivery Copters Before Seattle Does 102

Posted by timothy
from the go-where-they'll-let-you-in dept.
From Quartz comes the story of a Silicon Valley start-up trying to kickstart a delivery system using package-laden drones to overfly gridlocked traffic — in Bhutan. Bhutanese roads are slow, the weather can be brutal, and there are very few physicians to go around. That’s why, earlier this year, the Bhutanese government and the World Health Organization reached out to Matternet, a Palo Alto company backed by some big name American investors that develops transportation networks using unmanned aerial vehicles to reach hard-to-access places. ... The project in Bhutan, however, is the first big test for the startup. Matternet is aiming to build a network of low-cost quadcopters to connect the country’s main hospitals with rural communities. Matternet uses small quadcopters that can carry loads of about four pounds across 20 km at a time, to and from pre-designated landing stations. The company is able to track these flights in real-time, and aims to eventually deploy fully-automated landing stations that replace drone batteries, giving them extended range and flight time. The drones it uses typically cost between $2,000-5,000.
Businesses

With Chinese Investment, Nicaraguan Passage Could Dwarf Panama Canal 322

Posted by timothy
from the start-digging dept.
Nicaragua is now home to the early stages of one of the largest infrastructure projects on earth, plans for which have been raising questions for some time now. In a move that will affect global trade in the long term, "A Chinese telecom billionaire has joined forces with Nicaragua's famously anti-American president to construct a waterway between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean to rival the Panama Canal. The massive engineering undertaking would literally slice through Nicaragua and be large enough to accommodate the supertankers that are the hallmark of fleets around the world today." (Here's a related article with a bit more on the project from Wang Jing, the Chinese telecoms entrepreneur now also at the head of the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co.) One potential problem with the canal: disruption of surfing in Nicaragua.

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